Review: Sally Potter’s The Party9 April 2018
The scene is set in a middle-class London home. The walls of the home set the boundaries of the film. They sit as solid foundations to the crumbling social stratosphere. The rooms of the home map the distress of broken relationships and a broken England.
Sally Potter’s black and white, situational comedy The Party tracks a politician’s soirée. The play-like piece is a mere 71 minutes long. Shot in real time, you very much participate in the evening of madness.
Shot over the fortnight in which the Brexit referendum took place, The Party is acutely political. The energy of the fortnight resounds in Potters vicious satire of centre ground politics.
The resolutely independent filmmaker works with what she calls “the healing power of laughter” to combat the social and political tumults of her film’s context. The household vinyl collection exists as much of the film’s score. Mixing blues, jazz, reggae and tango it plays on the element of absurdity, the music often incongruent to the mood of the scene. Potter’s seven characters exist as almost caricatures, serving specific roles to reflect the bourgeois of modern day England. The quotable one-liners of, “tickle an aromatherapist and you find a fascist” and “you’re a first class lesbian and a second rate thinker” litter the script and work to take the edge off Potters scathing critic.
Potter weaves her story through the house; the plot unravels as it bounces from each room. It is reliant on the deliberate and purposeful mise-en-scène elements of the respective rooms. The sitting room is laden with the exterior of academic intellect; a precise bookcase encases the room. The kitchen transitions from a celebratory haven, to a burned and evacuated distant memory. The peeling wallpaper and dripping taps of the bathroom echoe the behaviour of its visitors. Thus, an entrance into each room provides a further revelation, exposing the true nature of the social circle.
The Party presents as a microcosm, an intimate episode of Potter’s interpretation of modern day politics. As each friend arrives at the home, they carry in their own baggage, an announcement of some sort. Each announcement is politicised, so as to demonstrate, the personal truly is political—especially within the home of a politician.
“Truth and reconciliation”, a political ethos spoken by the hostess reverberates through the films entirety. With each announcement, this ethos grows all the more murky until perhaps it doesn’t exist at all.